Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Breastfeeding Trials - Part II

See My Breastfeeding Trials Part I here.

By Thanksgiving, Gabriel had gotten rather accustomed to formula supplementation, and his weight gain was better than it had ever been. In fact, life with Gabriel in general was better than it had ever been. He began sleeping better.* I could take him places and not have to worry about him breaking down. It even became possible for me to leave him for very short periods of time.

Of course, now that Gabriel was receiving a bottle several times per day, we had a new set of challenges to face. A few weeks after we started Gabriel on formula supplementation, he went on his first nursing strike. I remember it clearly:

After waking up from his nap one Saturday afternoon, Gabriel began crying and screaming. In the past, if holding him alone did not solve this issue, nursing him did. On this particular day, it did nothing for him. Anyway, we made it through by distracting Gabriel by giving him a bath, as he loves baths.

There have been a few nursing strikes since that time, but I have spoken with a lactation consultant about it. Now that I have an understanding of what nursing strikes are, and know that he is growing very well, it's not such a scary thing.

There has been a time or two when a well-intentioned person has said something like, "Well, it's probably better that you have a lack-of-supply rather than an over-supply problem." While I know that people truly mean well when they say something of this sort, it was not very helpful in my case. The physical ailments that go along with over-supply sound a touch refreshing compared to the feelings of inadequacy and worry over my child that went along with the lack-of-supply issues. I know that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but I believe that it would have been easier for me to handle the opposite problem, at least in this case.

As far as I am concerned, the only advantage of formula feeding or breastfeeding is the fact that the mother does not always have to be present in order for the baby to feed (though I the same can be said for breastfeeding if pumping is employed). Even though I have not had to do it many times, I do not enjoy the preparation of bottles in the middle of the night. Nor do I like the necessity of carrying bottles, water, and formula when we go out. I guess that in my case, simplicity is the preferred course of action.

Now that Gabriel is eating solid foods, his formula consumption has decreased, while his nursing has remained about the same. I plan to continue breastfeeding Gabriel for as long as he is interested and/or breastfeeding remains possible. After some of the trials that I have gone through related to breastfeeding, I believe that we can make it through any other related trials that may arise.

* Still, at six months old, I am lucky if he sleeps for five consecutive hours at night. That is, however, a great improvement over the not more than two, maybe three consecutive hours, if I was extremely lucky, for the first three months of Gabriel's life..

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Six Months with Gabriel

Gabriel is now six months old. It does not even seem like he has been a part of our everyday lives for over half of a year now.

We wrung in the milestone by suffering through a night of terrible sleep thanks to Gabriel's first cold. Within a couple of days, however, things were back to normal. Since it did not kill us, we are considering ourselves stronger for the incident.

At any rate, the results of the six month check-up were as follows:

Height: 25 1/2 inches
Weight: 16 pounds, 4 ounces

Gabriel is sitting up unassisted now, rolling all over, and can scoot across the floor a bit. He is eating a handful of different types of foods; his favorite is sweet potato at this time - though he seems to like eating in general. I have been doing laundry little more since Gabriel was born, as he has such tiny clothes. Now that he is eating foods, however, the laundry load has increased exponentially. My mother has assured me that in all likelihood I will not see a decline until he moves out.

J.R. and I are now confident enough to take Gabriel places that are not particularly baby-friendly. For example, we had an enjoyable lunch at the Chinese buffet the other day. Gabriel smiled, he cooed, he even opened his own fortune cookie: "The fun part of a relationship is about to begin." Rather appropriate, we thought.

We also managed having Gabriel's photograph taken professionally in honor of his being six months old now. He was not so sure about the photographer at first, but then he warmed up, and they turned out positively adorable.

Despite the increase in laundry, six months is way more fun than five months was. Even though Gabriel is growing out of clothes and toys, and we have to be careful about what is within his reach - we are loving every minute of parenthood these days.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Breastfeeding Trials - Part I

As I have mentioned before, Gabriel grew very slowly in his first few months of life. This is a fact that is linked to my inability to produce an adequate milk supply for him. I wanted to write about my breastfeeding problem as it happened, but new parenthood, stress, and worries over the issue itself prevented me from doing so. Now, however, I wish to write about it so that it will be out there to help other women who may find themselves in the same situation in which I found myself.

I will start from the beginning. Gabriel was born a normal, healthy, baby boy on August 3, 2007. He weighed in at seven pounds and eleven ounces. He nursed within a half hour after his birth. I met with a lactation consultant, as well as supportive nurses, before leaving the hospital. The first few days of breastfeeding were difficult, but based on what I know about the breastfeeding experiences of other first-time mothers, I do not think that there was anything extraordinarily different about our case. I nursed Gabriel constantly, never going more than two hours between feedings except at night. He received no supplementation, no bottles, no pacifiers, etc. in order to avoid any sort of nipple confusion, supply issue, or other breastfeeding problem.

Gabriel's weight fell to seven pounds at the lowest. At a week-old, Gabriel was declared "healthy and thriving" by the doctor that we took him to. I diligently kept records of his diaper activity for the first month, he was slightly behind at times, but the doctors were never concerned about it. At three weeks old, Gabriel weighed only seven pounds, eight ounces. He was not yet back up to his birth weight. Since I was committed to breastfeeding, and Gabriel was otherwise healthy, his doctor saw no reason for any real concern and I continued with constant breastfeeding. At his next check up when he was about seven weeks old, Gabriel weighed only eight pounds. He was averaging growth of only two ounces per week, rather than the at least four ounces that is preferred. Since everything was well otherwise, Gabriel and I continued breastfeeding exclusively.

I took Gabriel to the doctor several times over the next couple of months. In an attempt to produce more and/or richer milk, I drank mother's milk tea, used a fennel oil rub, and took other herbs that are known to assist in lactation. I also began pumping whenever Gabriel slept while continuing to nurse him constantly. He continued to grow slowly during this time. At three months old, Gabriel weighed in at only one pound over his birth weight, though he continued to be healthy and normal otherwise.

Around bedtime on November 13, 2007, at approximately three and a half months old, Gabriel made it clear that he was hungry. Gabriel was very frustrated at the breast and crying inconsolably, I offered him 2 oz. of formula, he drank 1 oz. and turned into a happy baby again. I did not like giving him the formula, but I felt terrible that he had been crying in hunger. Stressed and crying, I prepared two ounces of formula. He drank one ounce, was instantly happy, and went to sleep easily. I hoped and prayed that formula supplementation would not become a regular part of his diet. My hope was not to be so, however. The next afternoon, Gabriel repeated his hungry baby routine. I knew that, once again, I was out of milk and he was still hungry. This time, he drank down the entire two ounces of formula. I remember feeling awful for making him fuss for so long before giving him the formula, because he settled back into a happy, satisfied baby after drinking the formula.

Following that second formula feeding, I had a minor "break down" of sorts. When I was pregnant I studied breastfeeding, we even took a breastfeeding class at the hospital with a lactation consultant. I was prepared, on some level, for the common breastfeeding set-backs. Since I had read that 95% of women can breastfeed exclusively with few or no problems, I did not consider that I would have any real problem with breastfeeding Gabriel. In fact, I had made a commitment that I would breastfeed exclusively for at least six months, and keep nursing until Gabriel no longer wanted to - which would probably be at least two years. Since formula is somewhat controversial, I really wanted to stay away from it if at all possible. In sum, I had set myself up for a difficult time mentally and emotionally. Eventually, I came to grips with the fact that whatever is necessary to have a happy, healthy baby is an acceptable path when it comes to food - whether "ideal" or not.

Next: My Breastfeeding Trials - Part II, which will bring the story up to present day.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Five Months with Gabriel

As of last Thursday, Gabriel is five months old. It is hard to believe that in less than a month it will have been a half year since he was born, and life as we knew it changed forever, for the better. Time passes so quickly.

Gabriel laughs and gives kisses now. He makes attempts at crawling, and is learning to sit up on his own. Popular opinion holds that he is teething now, and based on the fact that I got my first tooth at five months, it is a possibility. Gabriel has been labeled "fun" officially now. Once again, we think that we are looking at the "best" month yet.

Gabriel continues to grow at rapid speed: he was thirteen pounds and eight ounces on Thursday at his check-up. That means that he gained over three pounds in the last month. A couple of months ago, when Gabriel's already slow weight gain seemed to be tapering off, everyone was hoping and praying for his growth (I plan to write more on this topic when I find the time to do so). Now he is beginning to remind me of Clifford the Big Red Dog, in which Emily Elizabeth prays for Clifford to grow, because he is "too small," then Clifford grows into the biggest dog ever, and Emily Elizabeth eventually tells him that he is big enough and that he can stop growing. We are not about to tell Gabriel to stop growing, but we have told him that he is catching up nicely and that we would not mind if he would slow down on his growth a bit. Even J.R. and I can recognize that he is growing, and we can no longer really call him a "little" baby.

Let me illustrate:

Four months

Five months

We are a little biased, but we think that he is getting more cute and sweet with every day that passes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My New Year's Eve "Party"

J.R. and I rang in the new year together at home while Gabriel slept. Our evening was not so different from others: Chinese take out, piña coladas, watching Scrubs, and tuning in for the last four minutes to watch the ball drop. We turned in shortly after midnight. We may have been inclined to stay up later, but we were tired, and Gabriel is not about to sleep in just because his parents decided to stay up later than they probably ought to. It was a simple night, quite unlike the last several years, in which I have stayed up late at New Year's Eve parties. Yet, the night was perfectly acceptable and appropriate. In fact, J.R. and I both enjoyed ourselves a lot.

As any parent knows, life as parents is different than life before having children. Different, however, is not equivalent to "bad," "cramping my style," or any similar sentiment. In my case, life as a parent has proven "infinitely better," and "enriching," among several other positive differences. I would not trade our current situation, blessed as we are as parents, for anything, be it more money, more free time, or any other objective good. Life as a parent is both objectively and subjectively better in my case. I thank God for blessing us with a child, and making us a family, early in our married life. As we have learned firsthand, there is no comparison between the joys of parenthood and the fun to be had at parties.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Brothers, My Friends

Growing up, I was very close to my younger brothers. We spent tons of time together, and I acknowledge without hesitation that they were my best friends. Even with the closeness and awesome friendship that I shared with my brothers, I could not help but wonder what it would have been like to have a sister who was in the same age bracket as me - what sister-sister friendship could we have shared?

On Christmas, my brother, Chad, had a surprise for us: he and his girlfriend, Tiffany, were engaged. We were surprised, but not in a shocked sort of way. Chad and I have a special friendship, we even have our own "song." Sure, my brother is even more difficult to get a hold of these days, but we are happy for him. Although we have not seen them interact much since they became a couple (they started seeing each other right around when Gabriel was born, and we have been rather busy with being new parents since that time), we know that Chad and Tiffany get along very well and wish them all of the best.

My history with Tiffany goes back approximately eight years, as her sister, Sarah, is one of my best friends (she was the maid-of-honor in our wedding). Though Tiffany is six years younger than us, she has come to be a good friend over the years as well.

Tiffany, me, and Sarah
Halloween, 2006

My other brother, Adam, is engaged as well. He and his fiancée, Carlie, are planning to be wed in the spring. Like Tiffany, Carlie and I have a history as friends - though I have known Carlie longer. Other than Sarah, Carlie was my only bridesmaid who merited the position predicated on friendship alone.

Carlie and me
June, 2006

So, although I was not blessed with a sister in my age bracket (Miriam and Faustina are sixteen and nineteen years younger than me, respectively), it looks like I am going to be blessed with two sister-in-laws who fit the bill. Two sister-in-laws who were friends with me before they entered into relationships with my brothers.

Adam, me, and Chad
May, 2006

I love my brothers so very much - and I wish for them to have holy and happy marriages. I am looking forward to having more nieces and nephews as well.* Sure, I may not spend nearly as much time with my brothers as I used to these days. As I have learned in my own life, however, love in the human person is not limited, so they ought not love me any less as they prepare for their own marriages. I know that I love each of them just as much now as I ever have, and expect that my feelings will remain the same always. I am not "losing" my brothers, afterall, but gaining two "sisters," two friends.

* I have two nieces and a nephew through J.R.'s family. I would also like to mention that this entry in no way negates the fact that I consider my sister-in-law (J.R.'s sister, Angela) a good friend.